Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Make no doubt about it, the Washington Capitals meant business beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5, even if they had some trouble maintaining the Penguins’ pressure in the second period. In each of the last two series against the Penguins over the last two years, the Capitals absolutely dominated two games and ended up losing. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look at the numbers of Game 5.
Skip to Saturday night and the Capitals were, at times, struggling all over the ice in terms of their performance, but thanks to fantastic netminding from goalie Braden Holtby and Head Coach Barry Trotz FINALLY pulling Devante Smith-Pelly off the first-line in favor of the much more skilled Jakub Vrana, the Capitals put up two goals (four with two empty-netters) to take the lead in the series 3-2.
This is how the Expected Goals looked. Numbers provided by MoneyPuck.
These numbers are for all situations, so including the power play and penalty kill. The first period was pretty even, but the Penguins ran away with the game early in the second after the first-line (with Smith-Pelly on it) got hemmed in their zone and took two penalties, both resulting in goals against. Smartly, it was after this that Trotz put Vrana with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
By the end of the game, the Penguins were expected to score over four goals, but scored just three. The Capitals were expected to hit the back of the net just two times, but scored four with the empty-netters.
It still doesn’t look all that better when the situation is 5-on-5, but much better than all situations. The Capitals came out in the third period determined to win the game. It’s also important to note center Nicklas Backstrom missed most of the third with an injury, which probably lowered the numbers a bit for the Capitals. But overall a good push by the Caps.
It’s interesting that the third periods in the last three games have flipped-flopped. In Game 3, the Capitals came in and shut down the Pens in the third period. In Game 4, the Pens did it to the Caps. Now in Game 5, the Caps didn’t dominate, but they did put up four goals (two empty-netters) and allowed zero themselves.
The Capitals definitely do not want to put up the same performance (particularly the one in the second period) again, because they may not have the luck to sustain it again. They’ll need to turn on the jets in one of these last (potentially) two games (hopefully the next one) to secure themselves this series. It will be tough with Andre Burakovsky still injured, Tom Wilson out one more game, and potentially no Backstrom. But more than ever, this squad has shown their resilience. They’ll need it one more time to get into the third round of the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
By Luke Adomanis